To launch this investigative journalism programme, Edutronic Investigates, we will be engaging in a number of short exercises, exploring the dimensions of good journalistic practice.
One of the most important of these is investigating journalistic questions and securing accurate information from primary sources.
A primary source is a person entity that is the subject of your enquiry. To assert a fact with a high level of reliability, you must query the source. This may mean speaking to an individual or group of individuals or an organisation directly, and accurately recording what they tell you. Sometimes you may have to look up official sources of information to verify the things you are told – particularly if they quote facts or statistics.
The print journalism task should follows these steps:
- Devise a question that you don’t know the answer to, but that can be answered by someone you have access to who is involved or is an expert on the area.
- Contact this source directly, ask the question, record (in writing is fine) their response with 100% accuracy
- Write a short paragraph outlining the question and answer, placing their answer into the paragraph as a quotation, and crediting the source.
- Finish the paragraph with an un-biased statement about the possible implications of the facts you have just discovered.
Have a look at the following excerpt from a newspaper article. Identify which part involves reference to a primary source and which part is the journalist’s own invention. What do you think about the reliability of this information? Thinking about what we’ve already discussed about journalism, what could the journalist have done to improve the piece?